The Universal Health Care Act is still underfunded by about P84 billion—a gap that must be addressed by the next administration to stop hospitals from leaving the state health insurance system for good and prevent the public from suffering even more amid the coronavirus pandemic, Partido Reporma chairman and standard-bearer Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said.
Lacson raised this issue in a recent press conference in Lingayen, Pangasinan as he noted that more private hospitals were cutting ties with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) over unpaid hospitalization claims that reached about P20 billion as of November.
The three-term senator said the full implementation of the UHC is crucial for the country to address the pandemic, which is a priority of the Partido Reporma presidential bet.
“Our primary program, of course, is to address the pandemic. We have a Universal Health Care Act that was passed in 2018. Until now it is not fully funded, although it can be. Its full implementation is worth P257 billion but the fund allocated for it in 2022 is just P173 billion,” he said.
The longtime public servant said private hospitals in Iloilo were “rebelling” against PhilHealth and withdrawing from the state health insurer, which he reiterated should be chaired by a competent fund manager or financial expert from the Department of Finance and not by the Secretary of Health.
As one of the senators who passed the UHC, Lacson also questioned why the law could not be funded correctly, as a fully-funded health care act means that all barangays in the country would be covered and that there would be one hospital bed for every 800 population.
In contrast, 2020 statistics show that in the country’s poorest regions such as Mimaropa (Region 4B), the ratio was one hospital bed per 10,000 people—way below the proportion of one bed for every 1,000 prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Meanwhile, Lacson said local government units don’t have to beg and feel “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude) toward politicians every time they ask for more funding for their projects once a proper bottom-up budgeting system is in place.
The Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) program advocated by Lacson and his running mate Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III is precisely what LGUs need to meet their local needs and priorities and not wait for “alms” from the national government, especially during the budget season.
Lacson said many local officials – governors, mayors, down to barangay chairmen—flock to his and Sotto’s offices in the Senate to ask for funding for their projects as the national budget is being formulated and finalized.
“It should not be this way. The budget should be planned and the funds downloaded (to LGUs), and you would be the ones to implement it. These funds should already be in the national budget,” he said.